Kansas, the land where buffaloes used to roam through miles of prairie landscape, has something to offer every visitor. This is true pioneer country and countless little towns like Abilene, Wakefield, St Marys, Wamego and Hays have great stories to tell if you take the time to listen. Spirited Dodge City embodies the essence of Western Cowboy Culture and in Marysville you can visit the Union Pacific Depot to see some of the original rolling stock which formed part of the original railroad through Kansas. If you enjoy outdoor recreation you will find plenty on offer in Lake Atwood, Lake Jacoma and the Prairie Dog State Park (near Norton). A quick drive across the border into Missouri offers still more interesting day trip destinations like Weston and Independence. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.Abilene

Abilene
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Abilene is located approximately 27 miles east of Salina, making this historic city ideal for your next day trip. The town was established as far back as 1858, but was really only heard of once the Kansas Pacific Railroad reached Abilene in 1967. Today the town has a few interesting landmarks for you to explore, starting with the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum, the Greyhound Hall of Fame and the Heritage Center. There are also a handful of interesting city museums and the impressive Seelye Mansion. No visit would be complete without stepping back in time at the Abilene and Smokey Valley Railroad, where you can take a ride on the Excursion Train on summer weekends.

Abilene, KS 67410

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2.Atchison

Atchison
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Historic Atchison has plenty of interesting attractions and activities to keep visitors busy all day long. If you are visiting the city for the first time a Trolley Tour is a great way to get an overview of the historic sites on offer. Atchison has many interesting museums including the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum, the Atchison Rail Museum and the Eva Cray Historic Home Museum. If you love the arts you can stop by the Muchnic Art Gallery which is housed in a very lovely historic Queen Anne-style mansion. For a break from history you can go walking or hiking in the Riverfront Park or enjoy the shopping along Commercial Street.

Atchison, KS 66002

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3.Cottonwood Falls

Cottonwood Falls
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The epitome of a true Kansas Ranching community, Cottonwood Falls is scenically nestled in the heart of the beautiful Flint Hills. Getting there is part of the fun as you make your way along the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway. Once you arrive you can spend a very pleasant day exploring the historic downtown shopping area, stopping here and there to soak up the small-town atmosphere. Attractions include the Historical Museum and the Chase County Courthouse, one of the oldest in the country. There are pretty art galleries to visit and the Cottonwood Falls Country Club welcomes visiting golfers. There are also several enticing inns and bed & breakfasts if you would like to stay overnight.

Cottonwood Falls, KS 66845

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4.Council Grove

Council Grove
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History lovers can look forward to admiring more than 25 historic sites when you plan a day trip to Council Grove. Council Grove is picturesquely located at the crossroads of the Santé Fe Trail and the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway. The town is proud of its attractive downtown historic district where you can stop by to have a meal at the 1857 Hays House Restaurant or visit the 1849 Terwilliger House. If you fancy a little exercise you can head to the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve for walking for hiking or go cycling along part of the Santé Fe Trail. If you enjoy shopping you will find several attractive and unique stores and galleries to browse along Main Street.

Council Grove, KS 66846

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5.Dodge City

Dodge City
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Get prepared for a rootin’- tootin’ taste of Cowboy Country when you plan your day trip to the legendary Dodge City. One of the best ways to explore Dodge City’s Western heritage is to board the Dodge City Trolley for an entertaining inter-active tour. If you prefer, pick up a map at the Visitor’s Center and take a self-guided walking tour. To get a real feel for all things Western you can visit the Gunfighter’s Wax Museum and one of the city’s lively Saloons. You can hike to the top of Boot Hill and visit the infamous Boot Hill Cemetery, where many gunfighters were laid to rest. When you have worked up a thirst make your way to the Boot Hill Distillery or Dodge City Brewing Company to taste some craft beers.

Dodge City, KS 67801

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6.Fairway

Fairway
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Fairway is located within the Kansas City Metropolitan Area, which means you can spend a day there without having to drive very far at all. The main attraction in Fairway is the historic Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site which is located at the crossroads of the Oregon and Santé Fe Trails and played an important role during the Civil War. After your visit you could have a pleasant picnic at Peterson Park or go swimming at Fairway Pool. There is a good children’s playground at Westwood Park if the family needs somewhere to let off steam or just enjoy some fresh air.

Fairway, KS 66205

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7.Fort Scott

Fort Scott
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Whether you plan to visit historic sites or get some exercise in the great outdoors, Fort Scott is an excellent day-trip destination. To learn all about the city you can take a narrated Trolley Tour or download a map and explore at your own pace on a Historic Downtown Walking Tour. Top attractions in Fort Scott include the Fort Scott National Historic Site, the Lowell Milken Center for Unsung Heroes and the Gordon Parks Museum (to learn about Kansas’ role in African American history). For a change of pace you could go hiking or biking along the trails at Gunn Park or play a round of golf. Round off your day with a tasting at the Boiler Room Brewhaus.

Fort Scott, KS 66701

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8.Hays

Hays
© Max/stock.adobe.com

Located just one hour west of Kansas, Hays is a great day-trip destination which offers many interesting attractions for visitors. If you love museums you should make the Sternberg Museum of Natural History your first stop. Here you can admire live animals, dinosaur fossils and much more. Afterwards, make your way to the Ellis County Historical Museum to learn about pioneer life in Kansas. You can delve into the city’s historic past on a self-guided walking tour (download the details) of Downtown Hays where many historic buildings now house vibrant shops, restaurants, galleries and art centers. If you would like some exercise you can walk, cycle or skate at several local parks and nature trails.

Hays, KS 67601

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9.Hillsboro

Hillsboro
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Hillsboro is located at the edge of the Flint Hills, where it provides a gateway to the Marion Reservoir Lake where you can spend a happy day on or around the water. The Lake offers very good recreational facilities including several picnic areas, campgrounds and more. The 1-mile Willow Walk Nature Trail is great for the whole family and there is ample opportunity to do some wildlife observation. The lake has several boat ramps and also offers good fishing. Back in Hillsboro you can visit the Pioneer Adobe House Museum and historic Schaeffler House, visit a few craft breweries or go Antique hunting at Molly’s on Main.

Hillsboro, Kansas 67063

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10.Independence, MO

Independence, MO
© gnagel/stock.adobe.com

Perfectly combining a wealth of pioneer history with a good assortment of recreational facilities, Independence (in Missouri) is a great day-trip destination. This is the hometown of former president Truman and many visitors come here specifically to tour the impressive Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum (closed until mid/late 2020 for major renovations). Other must-see attractions include the National Frontier Trails Museum and Historic Independence Square. You can tour in style aboard a mule-drawn covered pioneer wagon or do a walking tour. If outdoor recreation is what you crave you can cycle the 14-mile Little Blue Trace Trail or go walking in Waterfall Park. Shoppers will find a variety of boutique shops in the historic district as well as several other shopping areas.

Independence, MO 64015-4161

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11.Lake Atwood

Lake Atwood
© David George/stock.adobe.com

The small agricultural town of Atwood is located around lovely Lake Atwood, which welcomes visitors to come and enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational activities. The lake is stocked for fishing and anyone with a valid Kansas Fishing License is welcome to drop a line. You can enjoy a pleasant walk along the Hayden Nature Trail (to the west of the lake) or bring along a picnic to enjoy at one of the picnic areas. There are plenty of activities to keep children happy including a basket-ball court, sand volley ball pit, horse-shoes and a great playground for younger children.

Lake Atwood, N Hwy 25, Atwood, KS 67730

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12.Lake Jacomo

Lake Jacomo
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Located across the border in Missouri, Lake Jacomo is a popular recreational area for anyone who loves water activities. The lake covers 970 acres in the heart of Fleming Park and hosts all kinds of water sports, including stand-up paddle-boarding, sailing, wind-surfing, boating and fishing. You are welcome to bring your own craft to launch at one of three boat ramps or you can hire whatever you need for a fun day on the water at the Lake Jacomo Marina. If you prefer to keep your feet dry you can explore one of five Nature Trails, all of which are around a mile long. There is an on-site campground if you fancy staying overnight.

Lake Jacomo, 7401 W Park Rd, Blue Springs, MO 64015

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13.Lindsborg (aka Little Sweden USA)

Lindsborg (aka Little Sweden USA)
© Jakub/stock.adobe.com

Lindsborg welcomes day-trippers to come and get a taste of the city’s Swedish heritage as you explore some interesting and unique galleries and museums as well as a host of historic sites. To admire the diversity of early architectural styles you can embark on a self-guided sidewalk tour of the Early Residences of Lindsborg – pick up your brochure at the Travel Information Center. A few of the must-see attractions include Heritage Square, McPherson County Old Mill Museum and the H?glund Dugout, which was home to the town’s first pioneer settlers. Art is alive and thriving in Lindsborg and there are several studios and galleries to see.

Lindsborg, KS 67456

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14.Lukas

Lukas
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If you are looking for a day trip with a difference, a visit to quirky Lukas is definitely on the cards. Lukas is located just 16 miles from Kansas, where it offers visitors some really unusual attractions. A good place to start is the Garden of Eden, which is unlike any other garden you may visit but certainly worth a place on your must-see list. Created by Civil War veteran Perry Dinsmoor, the garden contains a small stone cabin surrounded by remarkably eclectic sculptures which have been hailed as prime examples of Grass Roots Art. Next up is a museum showcasing the World’s Largest Collection of Smallest Versions of Largest Things which is totally irresistible, followed by Bowl Plaza, an arty restroom shaped like a giant toilet.

Lukas, KS 67648

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15.Marysville

Marysville
© TippyTortue/stock.adobe.com


Marysville is a pretty little town in Marshall County, near the Big Blue River, which was established in the 1850’s as a crossing point on the river. When you visit Marysville today you will find many historic sites which bear testimony to the town’s pioneer days – some of the most important historic sites include the Union Pacific Depot (which was once the largest railroad depot in the world) and the elegant Marshall County Courthouse Historical Museum. You may also like to visit the Pony Express Home Station and Museum and the very attractive Koester House Museum. Marysville has an active arts community and you may be able to visit an art exhibition or attend a live play or musical.

Marysville, KS 66508

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16.Mushroom Rock State Park

Mushroom Rock State Park
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Located close to Salina, the Mushroom Rock State Park is the smallest state park in Kansas, comprised of just five very interesting acres. As you have probably guessed, the park derived its name from the mushroom shaped rocks which are prevalent in this particular corner of Kansas. The weird and wonderful shapes are formed as softer sandstone at the base of the mushroom shapes is worn away, leaving the harder rock domes intact. Visitors have been coming to admire the interesting mushroom-shaped rocks for generations and they remain a great backdrop for brag-worthy photos. The park has a small picnic site and simple “rough” restrooms.

Mushroom Rock State Park, Marquette, KS 67464

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17.Newton

Newton
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Located 27 miles north of Wichita, Newton is a pleasant little town to explore on your next day trip. At the historic Warkentin House you can step back in time to the Victorian era as you tour this gracious building which dates back to 1886 and is filled with original fittings and décor. Another must-see attraction in Newton is the Kauffman Museum which showcases the history and culture of the Tallgrass Prairies and the Mennonite Immigrants. There is a major emphasis on arts and culture in Newton and you will almost certainly find a live theater or musical production to attend, as well as several art galleries. Shoppers will find a good selection of antique stores, boutiques, galleries and other general retailers.

Newton, KS 67114

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18.Norton

Norton
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Located due north of Dodge City, Norton is your access point to the Prairie Dog State Park which offers day trippers a large variety of outdoor recreational activities. The park is located on the shores of the Keith Sebelius Reservoir and is home to a thriving colony of prairie dogs which provide unlimited entertainment. Besides spending time watching the antics of the wildlife you can enjoy many water sports including boating, fishing, jet-skiing, water-skiing, swimming and sailing. Those who prefer to stick to dry land can have fun hiking, cycling or mountain-biking. There is a good campground if you wish to stay overnight and day-trippers can enjoy the picnic areas.

Norton, KS 67654

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19.Powell Gardens

Powell Gardens
© mayuberu/stock.adobe.com


Located across the border in Missouri, Powell Gardens is Kansas City’s Botanical Garden, a must-see attraction for all nature lovers. The beautiful gardens cover nearly 100 acres and boast seven impressive themed gardens for you to admire. Many visitors love the tranquility of the lovely David T. Beals III Woodland and Stream garden, which offers a welcome area of shade on hot summer days. By contrast, the beautiful stonework and the formality of the Fountain Garden will thrill everyone who loves a formal garden layout. There is something for everyone to enjoy including a pretty café area, a garden shop and a gift shop.

Powell Gardens, 1609 N.W. US Hwy 50, Kingsville, MO 64061, Phone: 816-697-2600

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20.Rose Hill

Rose Hill
© Mikhail/stock.adobe.com


Rose Hill is located just 15 minutes south-east of Wichita, where it welcomes visitors to step away from the hustle and bustle of the city and breathe in the fresh country air. You can visit Meadow Lark Farm to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables as well as hard cider on tap. If you visit between June and August you can pick your own peaches, while apple picking starts in July. Other country-style activities include going horse-back riding at the Mirage Equestrian Stables or the Wichita Riding Academy. There are several eateries where you can stop for lunch or you could pack a picnic to enjoy at Meadow Lark Farm.

Rose Hill, KS 67133

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21.Scott City

Scott City
© The Bohemian Lens/stock.adobe.com


A day trip to Scott City and the fascinating Western Vistas Historic Byway is a must for anyone who would like to learn more about the history and heritage of Kansas. Here you can step back in time and imagine the landscape when buffalo roamed wild, hunted by American Indians and pioneer settlers. Must-see sites include the El Quartelejo Museum, which will give you a great overview of the history and archaeology of the region, and Punished Woman’s Fork, where the last Indian battle was fought in Kansas. Fun activities include visiting Monument Rocks and Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park to see the amazing rock formations. The eclectic Keystone Gallery combines stunning fossils and art work under one roof.

Scott City, KS, 67871

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22.St. Marys

St. Marys
© amenic181/stock.adobe.com


The historic little town of St. Marys is located close to Topeka, where it welcomes day trippers to come and enjoy some great outdoor recreation. Before you set off to hike or cycle you should consider visiting the very informative Indian Pay Station Museum which is located on the site of the original mission which was established around 1846. The Oregon Trail Nature Park is a good place to go hiking or walking– there are three short loop trails to explore. The Sea of Grass Trail will lead you to the top of the ridge which offers wonderful views over the prairie plains as well as excellent bird watching. You can tee-off at the local golf course or have some fun fishing in a nearby lake.

St. Marys, KS 66536

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23.Wakefield

Wakefield
© Wakefield Museum

The little town of Wakefield is located on the west shore of northern Lake Milford, where it offers visitors a very pleasant day-trip destination. Many people come to Wakefield especially to enjoy fishing on Lake Milford and camping and outdoor recreation at Clay County Park, but you should not miss the chance to visit the excellent Wakefield Museum which showcases the history and heritage of Wakefield and the surrounding area. Other near-by attractions include the Kansas Landscape Arboretum which covers over 190 acres and has nature trails, a bird sanctuary and a lovely pond area. While you are there you can also view the on-site Historic Farmhouse.

Wakefield, KS 67487

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24.Wamego

Wamego
© rastkobelic/stock.adobe.com


Located about 150 miles north of Wichita, Wamego is a small town which offers visitors a big welcome, lots of attractions and great small-town atmosphere. You can start your day by viewing a few historic sites like the Wamego Historical Museum and Prairie Village, the Schonhoff Dutch Mill and the Walter P. Chrysler Birthplace. Fun activities include a Bison Experience at the Lazy Heart D and Plumlee Buffalo Ranch, canoeing at Riverfront Park and hiking and biking through the lovely rolling prairies. Don’t leave without visiting the Oz Museum to see everything to do with the famous wizard – you will find artistic Toto statues all over town. Round off your day with a tasting at the Oz Winery.

Wamego, KS 66547

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25.Weston

Weston
© Art/stock.adobe.com


Located across the border in Missouri, Weston has been voted the “Best Small Town in Missouri” and definitely reserves a place on your day-trip to-do list. The town offers attractions to suit all tastes including several elegant antebellum homes and the Weston Historical Museum for history lovers. There are multiple excellent attractions for foodies including the Weston Brewing Company, Riverwood and Jowler Creek Wineries, the Green Dirt Farm Creamery and the fabulous Farmer’s House Market. Many of these are housed in wonderful old buildings which are full of character. In addition, many great restaurants vie for your custom. To work off some of the calories you can head to the Weston Bend State Park for hiking, biking and a brilliant scenic overlook.

Weston, MO 64098

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25 Best Kansas Day Trips



More Ideas: The OZ Museum

Inspired by the book and the movie, the OZ Museum in Wamego, Kansas brings the magic and adventure of The Wizard of Oz to life. It is home to exclusive exhibits with unimaginable sights, collectibles, and an enchanting experience for all ages.

The Wizard of Oz has appealed to people for generations and has quite a cult following. The OZ Museum caters to this epidemic with room after room of artifacts, history, rare showpieces, and seasonal exhibits. Stroll through costumes, movie sets, toys, and other donations for a glimpse into the story that has transcended generations.

History

Housing artifacts from 1900 to the present day, The Oz Museum has been inspiring the small community of Wamego, Kansas since it was built. A significant grant from the State of Kansas and donations from the community helped this project take shape. Volunteers helped with the heavy lifting and the museum today still operates on the generosity of donors and the loyalty of fans to create its collections of toys and exhibits.

Exhibits

On display, visitors can learn historical facts about the movie and actors. They can follow the Yellow Brick Road through pieces such as the 1939 musical starring Judy Garland, or the Diana Ross and Michael Jackson remake, “The Wiz.” The first edition of the book by L. Frank Baum is also among the current most collectible pieces.

The adventure comes to life with hand jeweled ruby slippers, covered in 3500 Swarovski crystals to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the movie. The Haunted Forest sign warns guests to turn back, and the doors and windows from the munchkin house used in The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz entice all fanatics.

Creative character masks like flying monkey masks and a Woozy Doll made by the author of the book add a personal touch, and movie memorabilia, posters, and autographs make the collection valuable.

Rare artifacts like production notes, a death certificate signed by the Munchkin Coroner, and Ray Bolger’s passport are jaw-dropping and can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Events

The OZ Museum hosts events throughout the year such as OZtoberFest, which brings Oz-lovers from around the world together for live music, costume contests, food, and arts and crafts. Local participants feature a variety of Oz-themed food and drinks. Wines names Squished Witch and Drunken Munchkin made an appearance this year alongside a Mexican-style menu with entrees like Auntie Em’s Nachos. It’s a massive festival enjoyed by historians, authors, and fans alike.

Attractions

The Oz Winery is right around the corner and is home to wines named after Oz themes such as “Home,” “Oil Can,” “Lion’s Courage,” and “Bust My Bubbles.” Tastings take place daily and include two free samples. Wine Flights and by-the-glass purchases are available as well. Purchase cheese from the deli case or gourmet chocolate to pair with a tasting.

Reserved tastings add some sophistication to an Oz weekend with a private room and wine paired with cheese and chocolate. For groups of eight to ten, the Oz Winery offers an experience like no other. For an additional cost, add hors-d'oeuvres to the tasting, prepared by co-owner and certified pastry chef, Brooke.

Celebrate a special event for any Oz lover with an after-hours party for up to fifty guests. This space adds flair to any private party or fundraiser.

Dining

Known for their cinnamon rolls, the Friendship House is a great place to eat in Wamego. They have daily brunch specials, excellent service, and homemade plates like biscuits and gravy or brisket. Family-friendly and cozy, this neighborhood gem is a perfect way to round out a visit to the OZ Museum.

Paramour Coffee is an Artisan roastery offering locally roasted beans. Operated by a local coffee expert, this coffee house pours the best cup of coffee around. Relax, energize, and prepare for an overload of Oz.

Museum Store

The museum store boasts fun items like magnets, tee shirts, and signs, all with fun, adult-themed sayings. Some of these include things like, “Are you a good witch or a bad witch,” “99 problems but a witch ain’t one,” and a shot glass that reads, “Allergic to water.”

Other items available include books about the history of Oz, a book by Kristen Chenoweth, who starred in the Broadway musical, Wicked, and children’s books. There is something fun for everyone to take home in the museum store.

Whether you’re a fanatic or you’ve only heard the most famous movie saying, you’ll enjoy this glimpse into an icon of cultural history. Click those ruby slippers and repeat after me: there's no place like home.

The Oz Museum 511 Lincoln, Wamego, Kansas 66547, Phone: 785-458-8686

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More Ideas: Kansas Speedway

Kansas Speedway is a 63,000-seat facility which welcomes fans with sixty-five rows of access to their favorite events. Surrounded by the area known as The Legends, guests to Kansas Speedway will find no shortage of shopping and dining, as well as the opportunity to learn more about farming history at the Agricultural Hall of Fame.

History

In 1997, the International Speedway Corporation chose Kansas City, Kansas as its newest site for a speedway. Development began two years later, in the spring of 1999. With the announcement of the new track, came the availability of purchasing season tickets. In a single day, tickets and suites for the facility are sold out.

At the turn of the century, NASCAR announced the upcoming schedule for the new track. The featured events at Kansas Speedway would include Indy Racing League, NASCAR Busch Series, and NASCAR Winston Cup Series races. Later that year, an additional race is added: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Paving of the track began in September 2000 and was completed just half a year later in Spring of 2001. In April 2001, the track hosted its inaugural open test weekend, inviting the ARCA Re/Max Series to Kansas Speedway to test the track.

Kansas Speedway opened to the public in June of 2001, hosting its first race weekend with the running of the NASCAR Winston West Series Kansas 150, along with the ARCA Re/MAX Series BPU 200. A few months later the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series made their debut.

Less than ten years after opening, Kansas Speedway is awarded a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race when the ISC announces realignment dates. The races would begin with the 2011 schedule, and on June 5, 2011, the track hosts the first of its two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events.

Later that year, the speedway announces that it will begin performing track improvements, which will include repaving the surface of the track, along with the addition of a new road course. Track work is completed in September of 2012 and hosts its first-ever Grand-Am road course event the following year.

Attractions and Tours

Fans visiting Kansas Speedway will have plenty of opportunity for exploration. Whether it’s taking a tour of the track, learning more about agriculture, or diving into the nearby Schlitterbahn waterpark, guests will find plenty to keep them busy.

Fan Tours

Visitors taking in the fan tour will be escorted throughout Kansas Speedway, making stops in the Spotter’s Stand, the Grandstands, and the President’s Suite. During the sixty-minute tour, fans will enjoy a walk through the Infield, take a peek into Garage A and Victory Lane, and get a close-up view of a few racing cars.

School Tours

Kansas Speedway offers school tours, providing teachers and students the opportunity to visit the track and participate in exciting skills. Students will learn about reading for information, technical writing, applied math and science, and collaborative learning through group activities and games.

To encourage students to share their experience, the track invites teachers to have children create and design a license plate that can then be sent to other schools and students throughout the country.

Agricultural Hall of Fame

Visitors to the Agricultural Hall of Fame will have the opportunity to learn more about the present and historical value of how the agriculture business impacts American education, business, and economics. The hall of fame pays tribute to those that have made lasting contributions to the development, establishment, improvement or advancement of agriculture.

Schlitterbahn Water Park

Watching races in the heat of the summer can leave guests thirsty for a visit to the waterpark. Schlitterbahn offers relief from the heat with its chutes, slides, beaches, and rivers that can transport you from one end of the park to the other.

Visitors can relax on an endless float that traverses the entire park, or spice things up a little with a trip on the Storm Blaster water coaster or the Boogie Bahn surf ride. Beat the heat in a private cabana, or hop into one of the parks many pools with a swim-up bar.

Shopping and Dining

Kansas Speedway resides within the confines of The Legends, which promises guests the opportunity to shop till they drop, or eat till they burst. With a litany of eateries and stores to choose from, visitors will have no shortage of options.

The Legends

Across from the speedway, The Legends pays tribute to great Kansans, from areas such as athletics, science, exploration, technology, music, art, and much more. The space seeks to recognize the fantastic men and women who make Kansas a unique place.

The Legends offers a variety of stores and eateries, providing visitors with more than one hundred retail, entertainment, and dining options. This particular piece of the heartland has something for everyone no matter their age, style, or price range.

Kansas Speedway 400 Speedway Blvd, Kansas City, KS 66111, Phone: 866-460-7223

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More Ideas: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

People unfamiliar with the Midwest have visions of vast plains filled with sunflowers, tumbleweeds, and tall grass. While Kansas may have more acreage of fields than many other states, people from the Sunflower State will tell you that there aren’t as many as there use to be. Today, less than 4% of the original 170 million acres of tallgrass in North America remains. It was developed and plowed under in less than a single generation. The majority of this prairie is in the Kansas Flint Hills.

Tallgrass Prairie is a preserve that protects what remains of the nationally significant Kansas tallgrass prairies and their cultural resources. With almost 11,000 acres to explore, visitors can take a bus tour, hike, or use a self-guided cell phone tour to learn more about the Kansas Tallgrass Prairie.

History

Once spanning from Indiana to Kansas and from Canada to Texas, the natural prairie covered more than 170 million acres. Most of it is gone, but this pasture in the Kansas Flint Hills remains.

Millions of years ago, the limestone and flint rock formed from a shallow sea of water called the Permian Sea to create the foundation for what is now the Flint Hills, famous in Kansas and named for the flint rock native to the area. This rocky land was nearly impossible to plow but made an excellent grazing pasture. The natural seasons and the prairie life cycle of rejuvenation by fire as well as animal grazing continues to sustain the tallgrass and its diverse animal and plant life today.

Hundreds of species of plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals call the natural prairie home. Flora and fauna are too small to see from a passing car, but for visitors who stop to take a closer look, a sea of beauty and natural wonder awaits.

Nature Trails

The Southwind Nature trail starts in front of the Spring Hill Ranch house and winds through the lower prairie, across a tree-lined creek bed, and back up gently rolling hills to vast vistas of breathtaking beauty. Measuring 1 ¾ miles, it’s an easy trail for a short stroll.

South from the Spring Hill Ranch House on Highway 177, the first left down a gravel road past the Saint Anthony Cemetery takes visitors to the head of the Bottomland Trail. There are two loops to choose. Neither path is long, and both have benches for relaxation and reflection. Natural and cultural history abound on these paths with interpretive panels and brochures for browsing. This trail is also wheelchair friendly with an available comfort station.

Fox Creek Trail winds through Fox Creek for a six-mile round trip hike. Visitors experience a riparian area full of lush greenery. Wildlife sightings are common here among turkey, whitetail deer, and a variety of birds.

All trails are open twenty-four hours a day all year long.

Tours

Learn about bison, the tallgrass prairie, native people, and ranching culture on the daily bus tour. Rangers provide an interpretive program while driving through bison pasture where riders can have up close and personal encounters with herds. Buses are air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible.

Tours of the Spring Hill Ranch house and Stock Ranch are self-guided and give visitors a glimpse into the past. They learn what it was like to live on the prairie, raise livestock, and work a full operation ranch in the 1800s.

Activities

Join Tallgrass Prairie friends for activities that help bring back the monarchs. Monarch butterfly numbers are low, and pollinators are in decline as well. Using herbicides and other chemicals in farming and the ethanol mandate lead to the rapid loss of natural habitats for butterflies and bees, threatening the migration of monarchs and any species dependent on pollinators to provide food like fruits, nuts, seeds, and foliage.

Junior Rangers can earn badges by completing activities in the Tallgrass Prairie activity book. Drawing pictures of the prairie, writing essays about what they learned, identifying plants and wildlife, and taking a quiz will test a Junior Ranger’s knowledge of what they learned on their visit. They can also participate in scavenger hunts or paleontologist programs.

Dining

Nearby Cottonwood Falls boasts restaurants like Ad Astra, with the best burgers around and mac and cheese that rivals anybody’s mom’s recipe. Their small town friendliness compliments big food personality, and is a quaint place to stop in after a long day of hiking, fishing, and exploring.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve has a lot to offer for nature lovers and history lovers alike. From learning about the history and culture of the prairie to watching wildlife in their natural habitat to getting some exercise in the great outdoors, it’s a beautiful destination for rest, rejuvenation, and exploration.

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve 2480B KS Hwy 177, Strong City, KS 66869,

More Things to Do in Kansas

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